Believe it or not, SEO efforts aren't all the same. Namely, the two famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) forms of SEO practices: black hat vs. white hat SEO.
We all want to appear high in Google's rankings. But there are a few stipulations.
If you know the concept of 'white hat' and 'black hat' in computer hacking, you can probably guess which set of SEO practices are the ones to follow, especially if you're the leader of an SEO content team.
However, let's go over the two SEO practices. What makes up their strategies? You’ll quickly see why white hat SEO is one of the most important of your digital marketing tips this year.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is an unofficial set of less-than-ethical SEO practices. These often result in quick results for your site in search engines. But it quickly wears off, and can often end in a penalty from Google. A few days at the top, followed by a resounding fall from grace.
At first, black hat SEO seems like a no-brainer.
But long-time SEO experts know that black hat SEO isn't worth the risk.
Listen, we all wish we could rank higher in our specific industry. And with the ever-changing algorithm and overall scope of the Internet, you have to stay one step ahead of the competition, right?
To sum it up, it's a costly SEO mistake you and your brand can't afford to make.
Black Hat SEO 'Strategies'
The laundry list of less-than-ethical black hat SEO practices includes the following. Oh, and if anyone suggests these SEO tactics to get an edge on the competition, they're buying into some pretty big SEO myths.
You'll see why.
This black hat SEO practice is a big one. Keyword stuffing is less a technique and more of a brute force way of stuffing keywords anywhere they can fit. It's as simple as it sounds. It attracted journalists to use it for their various headlines, too.
What better way to accumulate clicks than by taking popular SEO terms and making a killer headline?
It blatantly ruins the quality of your content and makes it hard for readers visiting your site.
Maybe at a certain point when the Internet and algorithm were young, this was a solid way to get your site recognized. However, not so much anymore.
With multiple updates from Google, namely the Panda and Hummingbird updates in 2011 and 2013, respectively, the search engine put the kibosh on rewarding keyword stuffing in any way.
Let's say you have multiple Canva website pages, and I was at a loss for crafting new content for my users.
Instead of creating compelling content for your users, you decide to take the easy way out and duplicate your pages. Sure, it's an easy way to churn out content and, theoretically, buffs up your keywords. But if you're a brand looking to grow, crafting duplicate content across multiple links organically isn't the way to go.
Plus, pages and sites get a heavy penalty from Google for this practice. The search engine will likely ignore duplicate content entirely.
Arguably the most notable black hat SEO tactic, depending on whom you ask, is invisible text.
Guess what it could entail. Think you have an inkling of an idea?
That's right. It's when someone compiles a list of keywords and makes them the same color as the site's background and posts. The end result? The search engine would pick up the keywords hidden on the site, but users wouldn't see them.
When you're creating a comprehensive web page, the art of link building is the backbone of any good SEO technique.
That's why this black hat SEO is especially nefarious.
Buying backlinks is a way to entirely circumvent the hard work that goes into good search engine optimization techniques.
Companies would pay other sites to insert their links onto their site. What you end up with is a slew of mediocre backlinks that end up hurting your brand in the long run, as it goes directly against Google's SEO guidelines.
Plus, if you want to stand out amongst the competition, you need good, quality backlinks.
What Is White Hat SEO?
White hat SEO refers to business practices where a company or website follows the terms and conditions of a search engine to improve its reach online. It's also known as 'ethical SEO.'
In short, when you're practicing ideal white hat SEO, you're following the letter of the law online.
You're keeping your nose clean, creating content that ranks organically or through PPC advertising that won't garner any penalties from Google.
And for comprehensive, quality content, it's essential. Plus, you're maintaining your brand's integrity and continuing to build trust with your customers through honesty.
With white hat SEO, your SEO and copywriting teams aren't cutting corners when writing good copy and engaging with customers.
White Hat SEO Strategies
Good white hat SEO strategies contain practices that ensure evergreen web content, branding expertise, and a healthy relationship with you and your clients.
Create Compelling Content For Your Users
Remember keyword stuffing? It ruins the user experience, especially if that user is searching for help with a problem.
Instead of trying to jam your content with applicable keywords to shoot to the top of the rankings, try this SEO technique instead: write to your audience.
If you write compelling, up-to-date content not focused on cheating the guidelines set in place by Google, then you can make an impact. More importantly, you'll actually be informing your readers this time around with accurate information.
Plus, you'll be answering their questions and, hopefully, helping them down the marketing funnel.
Make A Page Worth Linking To
When you're going over your backlinking techniques to boost your rankings, ensure you're creating content worth linking to. Does your link lead to a site that answers questions? Does your page help a user solve a problem? Consider all of these questions, as well as following the old standby, 'create compelling content.' It really can't steer your wrong.
Don't Be Invisible
Regarding the invisible text, it's actually relatively simple, if you're willing to work, to implement keywords. If you want to insert more keywords into a page, but you're worried about watering down content, consider the metadata.
Things like alt-text, on-page SEO, and more can all contribute to your SEO efforts. Plus, they're now in a place that can help users find your site without you incurring a penalty from search engines.
Why You Need To Practice White Hat SEO
We know that SEO efforts can take a while. Plus, a winning SEO strategy is a long-term investment. However, between black hat vs. white hat SEO, choosing the former isn't the way to go.
Helping Your Team Stay Away From Black Hat SEO
If you're in charge of a team of SEO copywriters, it's important to coach them in the ways of a white hat SEO expert. Have them follow the above steps for good white hat SEO, and check in with them regularly. Craft a handbook of best SEO practices, tweak your team’s workflow, and ensure nothing unethical happens.
Black Hat Vs. White Hat SEO: Final Thoughts
Luckily, we don't exactly need to convince you to use one or the other. Turns out the issue is pretty black and white.
Since using black hat SEO will result in loss of revenue, penalties from Google, and poor content, it's a no-brainer to just stick to the straight and narrow and practice regular white hat SEO.